Upfront Navigator: NBC: Building on its Comedies, Making Room for the NFL

May 15, 2006  •  Post A Comment

After having only one breakout performer in 2004-05, the drama “Medium,” this current season finally gave NBC something to cheer about.

The network has the highest-rated new comedy of the season among adults 18 to 49 with “My Name Is Earl.” Plus, ratings vastly improved for formerly struggling sophomore comedy “The Office” after that show and “Earl” moved in January from Tuesdays to Thursdays.

In addition, the reality game show “Deal or No Deal” has brought NBC much-needed support at 8 p.m. on multiple nights.

The biggest change to NBC’s lineup this fall, the integration of NFL football on Sunday night, is also the maneuver most likely to provide further momentum for the network, according to Carolyn Finger, VP of media research firm TVTracker.com.

Football on Sundays arms NBC with a proven ratings driver on a night ABC has dominated most of this season. It also gives NBC the chance to promote shows elsewhere on the schedule that might appeal to the football audience.

Given that, the NBC Universal Television Studios/Imagine football drama “Friday Night Lights” seems like a natural choice. NBC’s new drama series roster includes: Sony’s “Kidnapped”; Warner Bros.’ “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” from “The West Wing” creator Aaron Sorkin; and NUTS’s “Raines” and “The Black Donnellys.”

“Donnellys” could be the new Monday 10 p.m. drama, with the more female-skewing “Medium” moving from that slot to either the Tuesday 9 p.m. or even the Wednesday 9 p.m. time period that ABC’s “Lost” dominates.

NBC also gains the luxury of rescheduling Sunday night stalwarts “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” and “Crossing Jordan.” The latter could also go up against “Lost” to protect a newer show from that kind of competition, Ms. Finger said.

“‘Crossing Jordan’ is not a massive hit, but people could follow the show,” Ms. Finger said.

Freshman dramas “Conviction” and particularly “Surface” are on the bubble, with the reality series “The Apprentice” also a question mark. “Apprentice’s” audience erosion suggests it might benefit from a rest until midseason.

NBC has picked up the 20th Century Fox single-camera comedy “The Singles Table” and an untitled Tina Fey project from NUTS and Broadway Video, several industry sources said.

Ms. Fey’s comedy, which profiles the behind-the-scenes action at a late-night sketch comedy show, may wait until midseason if NBC decides it doesn’t want to launch it at the same time as the similarly themed “Studio 60,” which offers a dramatic take on the same premise.

NBC Pilots Chart